The New York Times takes eagerly to the Israeli official line today with two headlines that shout “terrorist” and a third story that attempts to undermine evidence that the army used a Palestinian youth as a human shield.
In an opinion piece titled “Club Med for Terrorists,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations gets big play for an article stating that “Hamas has dragged [Israel] into three rounds of assaults” since 2005. The story also accuses Gaza-friendly Qatar of “unabashed support for terrorism” because it has provided financial aid to the devastated enclave.
It is not hard to poke holes in the assertions by Ambassador Ron Prosor. There is plenty of evidence, for instance, that Israel has ignored peace proposals from Hamas, broken ceasefires and provoked many of the rocket attacks out of Gaza.
Readers can find a list of Israeli breaches of truce agreements at the Institute for Middle East Understanding, and they can read a number of articles that outline how Israel refused to take the path of peace. One of these is a July 14 op-ed in the Times (“Gaza and Israel: The Road to War Paved by the West”).
Others include a recent article by author Sandy Tolan, “Blown Chances in Gaza: Israel and the U.S. Miss Many Chances to Avoid War,” and an Israeli analysis by Larry Derfner, “How Netanyahu provoked this war with Gaza.” There is also an academic study out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that shows Israel as a serial truce breaker.
In spite of the weight of so much evidence, the Times op-ed today states high in the article that it is Hamas that has “dragged” Israel into these conflicts. In fact, Israel could have spared the lives of its soldiers and citizens, as well as thousands of Gazans, if it had responded to Hamas overtures to peace and maintained ceasefires once they were in effect.
The Prosor op-ed goes on to say that Qatar has sent hundreds of million of dollars to Gaza and “every one of Hamas’s tunnels and rockets might as well have a sign that read ‘Made possible through a kind donation from the emir of Qatar.’” He calls on Western nations to isolate the Gulf state and force it to cut off funding for Hamas.
It is true that Qatar has sent money to Gaza, but Prosor does not mention the fact that it has focused on humanitarian relief. It has provided funds for government workers’ salaries, and it has pledged to give $1,000 for each home destroyed in the current Israeli assault. The Jerusalem Post recently reported that the Gaza government has also asked Qatar for aid in buying electrical generators and heavy equipment to clear rubble.
It is a leap, therefore, to say that Qatar funds are “unabashed support for terrorism.” It rather appears that Prosor is against efforts to help Gaza rebuild.
As for his assertion that Hamas “has vowed never to recognize Israel” and this “has long been an obstacle to reaching a peace deal,” the best response to this tired charge comes from Rabbi Henry Siegman, the former national director of the American Jewish Congress.
In a recent televised interview Siegman noted that “the state of Israel does not recognize a Palestinian state, which is to say there are parties in Netanyahu’s government—very important parties, not marginal parties—including his own, the Likud, that to this day has an official platform that does not recognize the right of Palestinians to have a state anywhere in Palestine.”
Siegman also reported that he had spoken several times with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who told him that he would be willing to join a government that recognizes Israel. This is precisely the situation in Israel in regards to recognition of a Palestinian state, and thus, Siegman says, “The hypocrisy in the discussion that is taking place publicly is just mind-boggling.”
In the Times today we also have a story about a Gaza youth who was taken captive by Israeli soldiers for five days and forced to search for tunnels. This seems to be something of a breakthrough in Times coverage, but in effect it comes off as an effort to undermine the boy’s story, which has appeared elsewhere in Israeli news.
The story ran in 972 Magazine on Aug. 21, based on a report by Defense of Children International-Palestine and the publication’s own interview with the boy, Ahmed Abu Raida. It notes that he made a sworn statement to DCI, and it adds that 972 asked for a response from the Israeli army and would include a statement from them if one were ever forthcoming.
By contrast, the Times gives us several paragraphs casting doubt on Abu Raida’s story, informing readers that Israeli authorities have challenged DCI’s reports of abuse in the past and noting that the family failed to take photographs of the boy and his clothing when he arrived home after five days.
In all, the story by Fares Akram and Jodi Rudoren, devotes half of its column inches to these kinds of observations and broader discussions of Israeli policies. The boy’s own narrative comes mainly at the end of the lengthy article.
Last of all, in the trio of Gaza stories appearing in the Times today, we have one under this headline: “Israel Says Missile Strike Killed Hamas Official Handling ‘Terror Funds.’” We learn that an official was killed by a missile as he rode in a car, and the blast scattered currency on the street. Security men arrived, it goes on, and prevented anyone from taking photographs.
This was enough for the Israeli army to call up the label, “terror funds,” and the Times did not hesitate to follow suit, using the phrase in its headline. Readers have to make their way far into the story to learn about 15 other victims who died in Gaza that day. These included a mother and her three children, who died from an Israeli strike on their home.
The death toll in Gaza is well over 2,000, but rather than take a hard look at where the responsibility for this carnage lies, the Times would rather give play to Israeli charges that lack real substance, repeating official spin about “terror funds” and “Club Med for terrorists” sound bites.
It seems that readers will wait in vain for the day that Henry Siegman and other voices of reason and morality find their due in the pages of the Times.